November 20 in Russian history


Nine years ago, at 0940 (Moscow time), the first module of the International Space Station named "Zarya" (The Dawn) was launched from Baikonur launch site. It was designed and built in Moscow, in Khrunichev Space Center, but the construction was funded by NASA and its status is somewhat ambiguous: it belongs to the USA, but on the plans it is often drawn as a part of the Russian segment of the ISS. This way or the other, this is not too important now, when it turned from the hub of the station to a mere passageway between Zvezda and Unity. Zarya was built in time, but launched 17 months past the scheduled date, due to the delay of the Zvezda module, caused by insufficient funding. Two weeks after Zarya was in place, Unity was attached to it.

In spite of the continuing criticism of ISS program in the USA and lack of attention to it in Russia, I am absolutely sure that this was a step in the right direction. Rovers and landing and orbiting unmanned missions are extremely useful, but only manned flights will eventually lead to the settling and developing of the outer space. And without each other, USA and Russia would not be able to complete anything equal to the ISS. USA provided funding and the Shuttles, while Russia contributed her immense experience in building and maintaining orbiting stations and the reliable Soyuz and Progress vehicles to keep it running. I am just a bit afraid that the ISS will end up as the only example of that close cooperation in space :(.

However, the ISS is still under development, and two weeks ago Russian Federal Space Agency has announced that by 2011 Russia will attach three more research modules and increase the staff from 3 to 6 people. The ever increasing participation of European and Japanese space agencies will make sure the ISS will still work even if NASA withdraws from the program.

No comments: